For years, yoga instructor Alice Van Ness
has started her classes with a simple request - that students turn their cell phones off.
She brought that policy with her to Facebook, where she began teaching a weekly class at the company's Menlo Park campus in March. But it proved to be a hard policy to follow for at least one employee, who began tapping away on her phone in the middle of class. And after Van Ness shot her a disapproving look, the instructor found herself out of a job.
But when it came to the Facebook employee using her cell phone - at the front of the room, in the middle of class - Van Ness refused to bend over backward.
"Hello - this is only Facebook," said Van Ness, whose firing cost her a teaching gig at Cisco too. "We're not talking about the U.S. government here. We're not talking about Russia is about to bomb us. We're talking about Facebook. Something can't wait half an hour?"
The incident highlights a growing tension in health studios, where students come to leave the world behind but often find themselves incapable of not checking their text messages, e-mails and - of course - Facebook. As smart-phone usage has grown, many studios have posted prominent notices asking students to leave them outside the studio.
But at a yoga class on a corporate campus, setting aside job responsibilities entirely, even for a few minutes during the work day, can be a stretch.
"Sometimes if you're in the tech industry, or have a serious attachment to your phone, you can't let Facebook go for an hour," said Michelle Michael
, who owns Balance Yoga Studio in Woodinville, Wash., near Microsoft and other tech companies.
When Michael opened her studio last year, she posted prominent notices there and on her website banning cell phones from classes.
"It's anti-yoga, if you ask me," Michael said. "We realize the news feed's going to keep going. But it's nothing you can't go back and look at. Class is only an hour."
Van Ness continues to teach at studios in Los Altos, Palo Alto and Milpitas. She likes using a smart phone as much as the next person, she said. The compulsion to check for new messages is understandable. But - particularly in a yoga class - students ought to be flexible.
"I understand the world still happens and there might be emergencies," Van Ness said. "But it's like, can we have some sort of boundary, a line of what we're not going to accept bringing into this class?"